Playlist #87

Happy Boxing Day! Here’s your latest playlist.

  1. Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus)”: No, I don’t understand what bizarre deal with the devil Lil Nas X made, but this song is so earwormy that Chekov twitches when he hears it. That was a Star Trek reference, yo.
  2. Billie Ellish, “bad guy”: I’ve heard many, many great things about Billie Ellish, and I’ve tried on more than a few occasions to listen to and even enjoy her stuff. I can listen to it, but I’m not still not quite sure I can enjoy it. It’s just not for me. And that’s okay. It takes all sorts of music or all sorts of folks.
  3. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, “Fire”: “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you fire.” That’s how the song begins. The guy who sings it wears a headdress thingie that is also lit on fire. It’s crazy, and the song has a great organ hook, but it’s far less weird than that intro suggests.
  4. The Thorns, “Blue”: A “supergroup” (for lack of a better term) made up of Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins (that “Lullaby” guy), and Pete Droge, covering a song by the Jayhawks. The harmonies are pretty great.
  5. Bob Dylan, “Isis (Live)”: I kinda always loved this song, This live version (from the Bootleg Series, Volume 5) is even better than the studio version.
  6. Simon & Garfunkel, “America”: Just a beautiful song.
  7. Stroke 9, “Little Black Backpack”: One of those late 90s one hit wonder types that’s a lot of fun.
  8. Third Eye Blind, “Jumper”: One of the more upbeat songs about trying to talk someone down off the ledge.
  9. Vance Joy, “Riptide”: I still don’t know if the main rhythm instrument is some type of guitar or a mandolin or a ukulele or what, but I like it.
  10. The Wallflowers, “Back to California”: Rebel, Sweetheart is still one of my favorite Wallflowers albums.

Playlist #71

Happy Tuesday! We enjoyed our Labor Day weekend, and I came up with this new playlist for you! Aren’t you lucky?

  1. Cory Branan, “When In Rome, When In Memphis”: Became obsessed with this song over the weekend. Jason Isbell and Brian Fallon (of Gaslight Anthem) add guest vocals, and the repeated refrain of “When I go, I ghost” just gets me.
  2. The National, “Weird Goodbyes (feat. Bon Iver)”: I’m a sucker for any new song by the National.
  3. Bob Dylan, “What Was It You Wanted”: Unofficial ADHD anthem, for the line “What was it you wanted/Tell me again, I forgot,” if nothing else.
  4. Jakob Dylan, “Will It Grow”: Is it gauche to follow up one Dylan with another? I don’t care. I like the song.
  5. Jars of Clay, “Age Of Immature Mistakes”: Well, if this isn’t just the song that ought to soundtrack most of my life choices.
  6. Pure Prairie League, “Amie”: There exists a version of this song sung by me, my father, my Uncle Randy, and Cousin David, and if there is any God it will never see the light of day. It is bad.
  7. Paolo Nutini, “New Shoes”: One of my students, many years ago, was absolutely obsessed with this song. I saw the music video for it. Did you know they were still making music videos in 2007?
  8. Nouvelle Vague, “Ever Fallen In Love”: The world needs more bossa nova covers of DC punk songs.
  9. Juliana Finch, “This Year”: You know I love me a Mountain Goats cover.
  10. John Prine, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”: Prine recognized the idiocy of this stuff back in the 1970s. Dude knew what was up with performative patriotism.

Playlist #70: Death At A Funeral

We spent the weekend up in New York, attending a funeral for my wife’s grandfather who passed suddenly late last week. It got me thinking about things like when I die and, me being me, the music I’d like played at my own funeral. This list is by no means exhaustive; a true funerary playlist would have to be at least three times this long. But these are the top ten songs I’d like played when I die.

  1. Iron & Wine, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: Funerals are often somber affairs. They don’t have to be, but they often are. This song carries that tone well.
  2. The Beatles, “Let It Be”: Preferably one of the versions with a George Harrison guitar solo, because I like George Harrison guitar solos.
  3. Harry Nilsson, “Many Rivers To Cross”: Sure, Nick Hornby may prefer the Jimmy Cliff version, but this is the one for me.
  4. Van Morrison, “Caravan (Live)”: Again, much like Nick Hornby, I love the live version of this song from the Too Late To Stop Now double live album, even if it does have the unfortunate circumstances of including band introductions halfway through. But all those guys will probably be dead by the time I die, and I’m willing to share the spotlight a bit.
  5. Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Released”: I mean, it’s more about getting out of jail than getting out of this life, but I think it still works.
  6. Sean Watkins, “Let It Fall”: This song always felt like it belong over the closing credits to some heartfelt romantic drama. Or the end of one’s life.
  7. George Harrison, “All Things Must Pass”: No one does the transitory nature of existence better than George Harrison.
  8. Gin Blossoms, “Pieces Of The Night”: Life could just be one long night at the bar, trying to find someone, anyone, to spend just a moment with, a moment that might mean something. Or maybe I’ve already had too much gin.
  9. The National, “Gospel”: “Hang your holiday rainbow lights in the garden.”
  10. Wilco, “What Light”: This song is very simple. Many Wilco songs are. But it’s also transcendent. And I think it’d be nice to have a choir of my friends sing it.

Playlist #52

This marks the one-year anniversary of me starting this playlist project. It’s kept me writing here for the whole year, which I like. I’ve even gotten back into working on Novel #7 (I’m well-past the halfway point, I think).

For this playlist, I thought about doing a retrospective, selecting my favorite songs from other playlists. But I decided against that. I’ll do another post later this week where I examine the playlists as a whole, looking at who got played the most and how many songs I repeated (I think just one? I’m not sure, but I’ll find out!).

Anyway, remember there’s the Patreon. I’m about to post April’s song. I’m pretty proud of it. Anyway, without further ado, here’s this week’s playlist:

  1. Dr. Dog, “Lonesome”: I love the guitar in this one. Pretty sure it’s a dobro or resonator.
  2. Andrew Bird, “Atomized”: Andrew Bird has a new album coming out this summer. I’m stoked. If this song is any indication, it’ll be a great one.
  3. Jorge Orozco, “Gran Vals”: Orignally composed by Francisco Tarrega, this is the song that Nokia got its ringtone from. It’s a very pretty song.
  4. Langhorne Slim & the Law, “Put It Together”: I’m a sucker for a shout-along chorus.
  5. The Doubleclicks, “This Is My Jam”: I like jam. Who doesn’t like jam? Commies, that’s who.
  6. Dolly Parton, “Jolene”: This is the slowed down version, the one from the 45 played at 33 1/3 RPM. It’s haunting.
  7. Aimee Mann, “Phoenix”: What is it about the way Aimme Mann writes and plays songs that just captivates me? I just love everything about her sound.
  8. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come”: Some days, you just need to let Sam take you home.
  9. Santana, “Evil Ways”: The way they add the, “baby,” to the end of certain lines in this song amuses me to no end.
  10. Bob Dylan, “Paths Of Victory”: My love for Dylan is no secret at this point. Someday, I’ll figure out an arrangement of this song for the guitar (rather than the piano he plays in this version). Until then, I’ll just have to sit and marvel at how well that man puts words together.

Playlist #44: Back in the Saddle

Happy Monday! I’m actually back to work today, after a month away taking care of the Wife. She’s improving every day, slowly but surely, and she’s well enough I’m comfortable leaving her home alone while I come toil away in education mines. A reminder that, if you want to support me making my own music, I’ve got that Patreon you can contribute to! I actually drop February’s song today!

  1. Genesis, “Turn It On Again”: I recently downloaded the album this song came from, Duke, and while this is definitely my favorite song off the whole record, the rest of the songs ain’t too shabby, either.
  2. Steve Winwood, “Back In The High Life Again”: “All the doors I closed one time/Will open up again.” Yes, they will.
  3. Aerosmith, “Back In The Saddle”: A bit of my anthem this morning.
  4. Andrew Bird, “Orpheo Looks Back”: Every playlist could benefit from some Andrew Bird, and I love this song.
  5. Bob Dylan, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”: “Beyond here lies nothin’/But the mountains of the past.” Maybe not Dylan’s most profound work ever, but I still dig the rhythm of this song and the guitar work.
  6. Gorillaz, “DARE”: I could dance this morning, I think.
  7. Glen Phillips, “Duck And Cover”: A more stripped-down version of a song that appeared on his Winter Pays For Summer album off of Tornillo.
  8. The Gaslight Anthem, “Stay Lucky”: Someday, I’ll put together a playlist of songs that I love to play on the guitar. This song will also appear on that list.
  9. Frank Turner, “The Way I Tend To Be”: I love this song for the mandolin mostly.
  10. CCR, “Midnight Special”: Another that I love to play on the guitar and howl along to at the top of my lungs, as one does with CCR songs.

Playlist #31 – Loooooong

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, AKA “Online Consumer Armageddon.” I posted a list of stuff you can buy that benefits me back on Friday, for those who are curious. And now here I am with this week’s playlist, a set that features songs that are all about being long (but most of them are actually quite short).

  1. The Beatles, “Long, Long, Long”: Off the White Album, this quiet George Harrison gem is gorgeous and simple.
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Long Time Comin'”: Features two of my favorite Boss lines: “Let your mistakes be your own” and “I ain’t gonna fuck it up this time.” Good stuff.
  3. Counting Crows, “A Long December”: With one of the best opening lines in any song, “A long December/And there’s reason to believe/Maybe this year will be better than the last.” Your lips to God’s ears.
  4. The Doobie Bros., “Long Train Runnin'”: My brother and I used to try to perform this one back in college. I…could not sing it then, and maybe sorta kinda can now, just not the way they do it.
  5. Green Day, “Longview”: I love how this song is mostly about the bass.
  6. The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)”: That one song that you always kinda thought was CCR but you weren’t 100% sure.
  7. Jars of Clay, “The Long Fall”: I’ve been a fan of these guys since I was back in high school dating a preacher’s kid. I kinda fell off for a few years, but their most recent stuff is still pretty darn good.
  8. Little Richard, “Long Tall Sally”: How do you not include Little Richard on this playlist, hmm? That’s the real challenge here.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”: I originally had a different Dylan song here (“The Man In The Long Black Coat”), but I think this one fits the general vibe and intent of the playlist better.
  10. Charlie Sexton, “It Don’t Take Long”: The train horn at the beginning of this song always throws me off, but it’s still lovely and all that.

Playlist #30: “Poor, Hard-Working Televangelist”

Happy Turkey Week, folks! Just two days of work for me this week, then it’s off to Ohio to visit some family and stuff myself with more food than is advisable because, hey, Thanksgiving. Before that, though, we have this week’s playlist, which features songs about religion!

  1. Jeremy Messersmith, “Jim Bakker”: The song that inspired this list all about the life of that “poor, hard-working televangelist.” If you don’t know, Jim Bakker was a snake-oil salesman of the worst sort and fleeced his lovely old congregants for every dime he could.
  2. Genesis, “Jesus He Knows Me”: Could also be about Jim Bakker, for all I know. I just remember how tongue-in-cheek this song sounded when I first heard it, and it still resonates with its strong anti-bullshit message even today.
  3. The Doobie Bros, “Jesus Is Just Alright”: I mean, he’s okay, I guess.
  4. Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit In the Sky”: How confident do you have to be in your soul’s eternal destination to write and record this song? Confident enough that Greenbaum, who is Jewish, said he had a friend in Jesus. That’s ballsy.
  5. George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”: Admittedly, George was the most spiritual of the Beatles. While Paul was tossing out pop songs like most people breathe and John was pushing avant-garde art on anyone who came to close (and Ringo was…um…Ringo), George was the one who got into Transcendentalism and Eastern religions and the sitar and all that. “My Sweet Lord” isn’t the end result, it’s a symptom.
  6. The National, “Gospel”: What does this song actually have to do with anything related to the Gospel? Nothing, as far as I can tell. But it’s a beautiful song and lovely and I really like it, okay?
  7. Bob Dylan, “With God On Our Side”: Dylan’s a man who knows what’s up. This song was written in like ’64, which is damn-near peak Cold War (or near enough as it doesn’t matter), and he’s coming out so strongly anti-war that I’m surprised the FBI didn’t have a file on him a foot thick.
  8. Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Blood of the Lamb”: I love me some Mermaid Avenue, and this one – off the second collection – is a stompy, apocalyptic slice of what made the collaboration great.
  9. Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man”: Damn, if this don’t just send tingles down your spine, I think you might be dead.
  10. Blind Faith, “Presence of the Lord”: More for Steve Winwood than Eric Clapton, really, ’cause Clapton’s finally shown his true (rather hateful) colors and eff that guy.

Playlist #23 – The All Bob Dylan Playlist

A new volume of the long-running Bootleg Series came out recently, which means I found myself digging into some new-to-me Dylan music over the weekend. My poor wife, bless her, does not care much for mid-80s Bob Dylan (it is an acquired taste), and got really upset with me when she thought I was about to subject her to it yesterday (I wasn’t, in fact, because I know it’s not her thing and I’m not a complete asshole). But it did inspire me to create this week’s playlist, which is full of lesser-known Dylan songs that I really like. These are by no means unknown songs; I’m sure several of you will recognize several of these right off the bat. But they’re not usually going to appear on any best of or greatest hits collection.

  1. “Girl From the North Country (Featuring Johnny Cash)”: Yes, Cash screws up and sings the wrong verse as the second verse, and yes, Dylan does that weird Nashville croon thing that he did for a while in the late 60s and early 70s. But this is still just a gorgeous read on this song.
  2. “Blind Willie McTell”: The latest Bootleg Series features a full-band workup of this song, and while it’s a neat treat to hear, I still prefer this stripped-down, piano-and-acoustic-guitar-only version from Volume 3 of the Bootleg Series. It plays up the melodic relationship to “St. James Infirmary” more (by which I mean it’s just “St. James Infirmary” with different words), and Mark Knopfler’s guitar work is just beautiful.
  3. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”: I’ve enjoyed playing this one on guitar for years (there’s even an old Youtube video of me doing it, if you’re so inclined), and the last verse, with its “I’m going back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough” just gets me every time.
  4. “Isis”: Yes, the name is problematic these days, but back when this song was written (for 1976’s Desire), that organization didn’t exist yet. It’s a story of grave robbery, revenge, and love.
  5. “Dead Man, Dead Man”: From the much-maligned “born again” series of albums in the late 70s/early 80s. This one’s a banger, if you ask me.
  6. “Up To Me”: From Biograph. It’s an interesting story song, though I still think I prefer the Roger McGuinn cover to the original.
  7. “Corrina, Corrina”: A subtle song from Dylan off of Freewheelin’. Yeah, I know Dylan’s usually about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but he manages to pull it off on this one. I like the faint drum and bass backing.
  8. “When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky”: Empire Burlesque suffers from 80s overproduction, but this song actually makes it work. The over-processed drum and the synthy horn section really work for me.
  9. “Song To Woody”: From his debut self-titled album. One of Dylan’s earliest originals, and still a sad, heartbreaking song.
  10. “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”: I love this song primarily for the guitar solo at the end. Whoever’s playing lead on this one just tears it up.

Playlist #1

I’ve started creating weekly playlists, ten songs each. Trying not to repeat artists from week to week or on a playlist. Don’t want to replicate songs from week to week. Here’s last week’s playlist.

  1. Bruce Springsteen, “Ain’t Good Enough For You”: Uptempo and fun, a joyful bop to start us off.
  2. Johnny Cash, “Out Among the Stars”: Could anyone other than Johnny Cash write such a cheerful, uplifting song about a kid committing suicide by cop? No, they could not. And that chorus is awesome.
  3. Dog’s Eye View, “Everything Falls Apart”: You could have told me this song could have been written and performed by any of a few dozen guitar-based alternative rock groups from the ’90s and I would have believed you. It is so completely generic that you could replace the lyrics with gibberish and folks would still bounce around to it.
  4. Bob Dylan, “Positively Fourth Street”: The meanest kiss-off song in the business, even sixty or so years later. No one lays down a sick burn like a scorned Dylan.
  5. The Interrupters, “She’s Kerosene”: Who doesn’t like a little skank in their music? Commies, that’s who.
  6. Madonna, “Like a Prayer”: Remember how controversial this song and video were back in the ’80s? All those burning crosses and the Black Jesus! It’s a damn good song, though.
  7. Phoebe Bridgers, “Kyoto”: I dunno, I like the keyboards.
  8. Redbone, “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee”: Native American band telling it like it is.
  9. Aimee Mann, “Great Beyond”: I absolutely adore the work of Aimee Mann and I’m kicking myself for the “no back to back songs from the same musician/band” rule I established for myself already.
  10. Hem, “Great Houses of New York”: Every song by this band feels like it belongs with a film. It’s all very cinematic. This song is no exception, except it’s exceptionally amazing. Like all of Hem’s work.

High Water Everywhere

Charley Patton, father of the delta blues, was born in Mississippi in 1891. He only lived until 1934, when he died of heart failure, but in that short 40-odd years, he transformed American music. According to this site, he recorded 57 tracks between 1929 and 1934, including the great “High Water Everywhere.”

Charley’s influence spread far beyond the Mississippi delta, reaching up into Minnesota and grabbing hold of a young Robert Zimmerman. Many, many years later, an older, more grizzled Bob Dylan would record a song that’s a bit of an ode to Charley Patton, “High Water (for Charley Patton)” off his album Love and Theft. The name and basic conceit came from “High Water Everywhere,” written about the great Mississippi River flood of 1927.

So high the water was risin’ our men sinkin’ down
Man, the water was risin’ at places all around
Boy, they’s all around
It was fifty men and children come to sink and drown

Oh, Lordy, women and grown men drown
Oh, women and children sinkin’ down
Lord, have mercy
I couldn’t see nobody’s home and wasn’t no one to be found

Charley Patton experienced the flood firsthand, and his original song is a harrowing exploration of that experience. Dylan’s own lyrical re-imagining takes that experience and renders it in a more expressionist way.

High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down
Folks lose their possessions and folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook, it broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, “You’re dancin’ with whom they tell you to
Or you don’t dance at all”
It’s tough out there
High water everywhere

Dylan’s words are no less impactful for their more esoteric tone. He cracks a few jokes, throws in a few asides to the audience, and generally keeps things humming along. But there’s one particular pair of lines in the song, a moment that sticks out in my mind or maybe stabs into it like an ice pick of thought. I can’t shake it. It’s:

“Don’t reach out for me, ” she said
“Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”

It gives me chills, that couplet. It feels like such a universal sentiment. With my anxiety and depression, it sometimes feels difficult to keep my own head above water, let alone help those around me. “Don’t reach out for me, can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?” It’s overwhelming sometimes. Does that stop me from reaching to help others, or reaching out for help myself? No. We’re all drowning. If I happen to drown but help you survive, isn’t that a worthy sacrifice?